The illustrious Illinois blogger SamuraiFrog decided to rank all of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s songs, 165 of them, an impressive undertaking. So, I decided to come up with a list of my 33 favorite Weird Al songs. Why 33? Because LPs play at 33 revolutions per minute. And I’m going to break them up into three posts of 11 songs each, mostly because posting 11 posts of three songs each would be weird.
11. Trapped In The Drive-Thru
(based on Trapped in the Closet by R. Kelly, from Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006)
An epic narrative about everyday stuff that married couples might go through, just trying to pick up dinner. Though I HOPE you don’t. Unexpected Led Zeppelin riff.
10. Gump; #102 in US, 1996
(Parody of “Lump” by The Presidents of the United States of America; from Bad Hair Day, 1996)
I found the wordplay funny, and the clash between the movie, that I didn’t love and went on too long, being so succinctly described in 140 seconds pleased me.
9. Genius in France
(Style parody of Frank Zappa; from Poodle Hat, 2003)
I have fallen in love with this pairing of the “Jerry Lewis phenomenon” of being more highly regarded in Paris than in Peoria, while totally capturing the Zappa sound and vocals. How many different ways can one say someone’s none too bright? I think they are all here. Dweezil Zappa performs the opening guitar solo riff.
8. Dog Eat Dog
(Style parody of Talking Heads; from Polka Party!, 1986)
It’s all about office politics. A great imitation of David Byrne’s vocal style.
7. Dare To Be Stupid
(style parody of Devo; from Dare to Be Stupid, 1985)
All the cliches turned on their heads. Frog’s #1 song.
6. Mission Statement
(Style parody of Crosby, Stills & Nash; from Mandatory Fun, 2014)
It was the juxtaposition of the hippie-dippy CSNY and the corporate BS buzzwords, which, as a business librarian since the early 1990s, I’ve heard these far too often, as though they meant something, and learned to despise them.
5. White and Nerdy: #9 in US, #14 in Sweden, #80 in UK, 2006
(Parody of “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone; from Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006)
I’m not sure who bought this, his biggest single ever, which went platinum. Was it the white and nerdy kids, or the black kids impressed with Al’s rapping? With Key & Peele, AND Donny Osmond!
4. Amish Paradise; #53 in US, 1996
(Parody of “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio; from Bad Hair Day, 1996)
From SamuraiFrog: “I think this parody is especially interesting if you take into consideration that Coolio’s original song is itself a reworking of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise’ from his 1976 masterpiece Songs in the Key of Life…
“I’ve seen it criticized heavily for being weak (I think it was Entertainment Weekly who said something about the Amish being a pretty lame target for a parody), but those people are missing the point.” Another criticism was that the Amish and the Mennonites aren’t exactly the same; so fussy!
3. I Lost on JEOPARDY!; #81 in US, 1984
(Parody of “Jeopardy” by Greg Kihn Band; from “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D, 1984)
I did, so there’s that. I’m pretty sure JEOPARDY! was off the air, but came back later that year with Alex Trebek. Coincidence? This video features original host Art Fleming, who I used to watch with my aunt Deana at lunchtime when I was growing up. Plus cameos by Kihn, Dr. Demento, and Don Pardo.
2. Word Crimes; #39 in US, 2014
(Parody of “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring TI and Pharrell Williams; from Mandatory Fun, 2014)
In spite of its infectious, Marvin Gaye-inspired tune, I HATE Blurred Lines lyrically; it’s a damn date rape song. Conversely, I LOVED the content and the visuals of Word Crimes, as I have lovingly(?) been accused of being a grammar Nazi. So I’m glad the tune has a much different manifestation.
This was Al’s fourth US Top 40 single, all in different decades. Michael Jackson and Madonna are the only other artists with Top 40 hits in four different decades.
1. Smells Like Nirvana ; #4 in New Zealand, #24 in Australia, #35 in US, #38 in Sweden, #48 in Canada, #58 in UK
(Parody of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana; from Off the Deep End, 1992)
The first time I ever heard Smells Like Teen Spirit, I thought the lyrics were very funny and terribly silly (“a mosquito, my libido.”) Then I discovered that it was meant to be a serious representation of youth angst. It was at that moment I felt a bit old, though, in fact, I eventually bought three or four Nirvana albums.
And it appeared that Weird Al had disappeared. He hadn’t released anything for a few years, and I figured that his decade-plus run had come to an end. Then this video came out on MTV. It is my favorite story about Al getting permission, in this case from Kurt Cobain. The song wasn’t about food, as the Nirvana lead singer had assumed. And it features both gargling AND kazoos! This song, his second US Top 40, was the beginning of a new phase in Al’s career.